Days 36-38: Jailhouse, Bunkhouse, Bloodhouse

The last week of my 40+ day journey during Lent 2012 was an interesting one as I was looking toward Easter and completing the journey. I had mixed emotions about the end of the journey but I wanted to complete the journey and make sure the friendships I formed would remain beyond the experience.

I remember the feeling I felt when I could not find my friend Robert who went to Jail for trespassing. We both slept in the same abandoned barn for many nights. It took me some time to figure out he was arrested for trespassing and the nights sleeping outside alone without him were a very lonely. I felt nervous, vulnerable, and helpless in the barn he let us sleep in. Luckily, I got to visit him in jail a few times and connect with him through a glass window. I can’t remember if he got out before Easter but we remained friends for years to come!

Also in the last week or so, I ventured out to experience things that my friends would often do to survive on the streets in various ways. One day, I decided to sleep at the San Antonio “Bunkhouse.” The bunkhouse is like a men’s hostel or dormitory for those needing a very cheap place to stay with a bunk, shower, and back porch to relax. It is not the best place to sleep but offers more freedom than strict shelters. The bunkhouse is still open today and many of my friends on the streets, including my Josh from 2012, still sleep there today.

I also went to visit a plasma bank with Georgia so we could get some money to pay for the bunkhouse and things we wanted to buy. To be honest, I think we all went to Bond 007 Bar in San Antonio for a fun night out to celebrate with some extra cash! At the time they had .75 cent Natural Light bottles for sale at the bar! And free popcorn. So we let loose!

Enjoy the reflections from some of the last days of the 2012 journey. Tonight, for Holy Week 2022, I am going out with my friend Neville again so he can show me how he used to survive on Houston street. It’s a Good Friday.

Supper: Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like a banquet—-full of food and good company. For both the poor and the rich…all you needed to do was attend and not be distracted by work, school, and self interests.

So it’s only fitting that one of the last acts before Jesus’ death would be a meal with his disciples and friends.

It was the Jewish Passover. A yearly tradition for God’s people… But this supper was going to be different. It was his last.

They broke bread.
They drank wine.
They shared in community…even when a betrayer was in the room.
They participated in the Body of Christ!

The Supper.

Matthew 26:17-30

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jailed: Posted on 

So… it finally happened.

I went to jail!

It was a crazy past week. I knew something like this would happen.

And it did!

My friend, Robert, was arrested and went to jail for trespassing early this week. (The same crime I got a warning for on Monday), but he found himself in the Bexar County Jail.

With a $1000 Bail.

Huge bummer. He has to stay there until his hearing.

Then it turns to me…

After Church…I went to visit Robert in jail. I had to go to jail.

I needed to go…he could have been me.

Crazy…

Going to jail…even visiting is a scary site.

Hopefully,  I will never have to go in a cop car!

Did I have you fooled?
It’s April 1st.

(But seriously…Robert is stuck there. The good news is that his liver can lay off the Vodka! Pray for him. I can’t wait to see him again.)

Bunk: Posted on 

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Friday nights are good nights. For one, I can spend the entire day on the streets meeting new people, meeting up with friends, and focus on my Lenten practice.

The last few weeks have been more intense on the streets, and it was good to have a fairly relaxing day.

Another reason I like Fridays is that I get to attend Taking it to the Streets under the 9th Street Bridge. This outreach has become my favorite homeless ministry since I have begun my journey over 6 weeks ago. Church Under the Bridge San Antonio makes you attend the sermon before you eat..but this ministry allows you to eat…then have the option to have personal bible studies with small groups or a volunteer.

Both ministries have good reasons for their church’s mission practice…but I, personally, like the latter. Making Jesus compulsory seems to be slightly missing the point…but both are good!

This Friday, a friend of mine, Valarie Moss, was there serving as a volunteer as she does most weeks. After dinner was served, she had the opportunity to meet one on one with a homeless man she met at the dinner. They read scripture out loud, talked openly, and then prayed together. It was a beautiful sight. It was not staged, not overdone, and not required for food. It was very authentic.

Valerie is my hero of the day.

Plus, the church that was serving the food and clothes brought a BBQ grill and cooked grilled chicken breasts. It was fantastic! I love when churches bring their best when serving the poor. Not only was the food good…I could also see that the church volunteers were having a blast cooking the food together. They were bonding as well.

Since working last Saturday, I have saved an extra ten dollars from my 8 hours of cutting red bell peppers. I wanted to use it for a good experience with others.

The other night I learned about a men’s dormitory called the “Bunk House,” where many men sleep and socialize. It’s not a shelter, it’s not a halfway house, and it’s not a church. It’s more like a hostel for men who are homeless.

The cost is $10 a day. Or $60 a week. You get a bunk, sheets, showers, laundry, locker room, tv room, and outdoor patio where you can drink, eat, and smoke.

The quality is not the best…but the freedom is amazing.

I had just over $10 so I could get one night at the bunk house.

After checking in, I was assigned bunk 27. Top bunk. The mattress was torn and plastic like…but once I put my sheets on…it was all good!

Before I went to bed, I made sure to go out to the patio and visit with some of the men. The patio was quite crowded because of the weekend, but a fun environment. Men were laughing, shooting the breeze, watching sports, and even giving haircuts for free. I was tempted to get one…but I passed 

The men were all nice. All asked me
questions, gave me advice about where to find work (most of these men have more stable

jobs) and told me their own story. The spirit was much different than the shelter. A hard working man feel…like a fire station bunk house.

It’s surprising how much 10 bucks can get you!

In the dorm room, many of the men who sleep on the bottom bunks wrap the frame with flags, sheets, or blankets to create a fort like atmosphere inside. You can tell they want their privacy in the cabin like room. It was not too different from Summer Camp.

I slept really well at the Bunk House. Despite the smell, (it was like sniffing a giant dirty sock), the place was cool and comfortable. Well…the snoring could get bad with so many men in one room…but I had Paul Hoodless’ earplugs on standby.

Went to bed at 10pm…Woke up at 6am. Oh…by the way…check out is at 6. Kind of a bummer.

You will need to spend 10 dollars more to sleep in!

The price you pay for a bunk.

Now I need to find another job…

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Isaiah 40:28-31: Posted on 

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.
(The Message)

iWork 2.0: Posted on 

This past weekend, I got another temporary job that many of my homeless friends go to on Saturday. (Ironically…so do many college students….see what we all have in common!)

To get this job, I did not have to wake up at 3am to make a shift at a temp agency. No. I could get this job anytime between 8am-3pm….and it only takes 3 hours to complete. It sounded too good to be true.

Bad news: you cannot be afraid of needles, blood, or nurses.

The work: Plasma Donation
The pay: $60.00

I arrived at BioTest Laboratories at 9:30am. (much better than 3) I has to sign in, verify my ID, SS#, and read a booklet on donating. After that was complete, I went through 2 physicals to make sure I was a healthy donor.

You get paid $60 dollars at this location for your first two visits…then around $25-35 for all other visits. It’s not a bad deal.

A nurse called my name and pointed to my chair. I was ready to go. When all the intake procedure was completed (They have a lot of questions…) I got in line to donate. The center I went to has 36 donation beds and machines. They were about 3/4 full so the line was not long.

All the other 5 beds in my section were full and already in the process of giving plasma. All but one person were shaking their feet in discomfort. Was it really that bad?

The nurse asked me for my SS# again, address, and number. They have to verify identity at every check point…for good reason.

Now…I was ready to be pricked.

I have given blood before…but not when they take blood out, take out the plasma, and put the blood back in.

Here we go…..prick.

It was not that bad…but I did look away.  Blood went though the cords really fast.  I was on my way to $60.00!

The procedure took over an hour, so I got on my phone and texted a few people. The discomfort was small…but my fingers were getting numb. However, I was amazed by the plasma machine and how it redirected my blood in all the right containers.

The nurse told me to always pump my fist. I understood…but pumping your fist over an hour gets tiring.

I started to wonder. Where my blood would go?
Who would get my blood?
Would people appreciate that their blood came from many homeless citizens?

Plasma often is referred to as the “gift of life” because it is the essential starting material needed to manufacture therapies that help thousands of people worldwide with rare, chronic diseases to live healthier, productive and fulfilling lives.  In order to manufacture these vital therapies, and ensure that there is an adequate supply of plasma protein therapies to treat patients in need, plasma donors like you need to donate plasma at a local donation center.  More facts about plasma can be found here.

30 mins into the donation my fingers went numb…and pressure started to build up in my arm. Painful…but not that bad.

60 mins…the discomfort grew…and I started to shake my feet to distract the awkward feeling of my blood reentering my arm.  Now I know why the others were shaking…(except that one guy…I guess he is tough.)

Over an hour later…I was done…the nurse unhooked the cords, took the needle out of my arm and bandaged me up.  I sat there for a while so I would not feel sick when getting up…but for the most part…I felt totally fine.

The nurse showed me the way out…and I got my 60.00 dollars.  Wow…that’s a lot in this journey.

After I left the downtown plasma center, I realized that the city was celebrating the life of César Chávez (March 31) and having a parade on the road that was renamed (earlier this year) after the civil rights leader.  Just recently, the SA City Council voted to change Durango Street to “César Chávez Blvd.”)

I wanted to check out the rally and parade.
Community speeches by local leaders were going on all day at the Alamo.

César Chávez was an American farm worker born in Yuma, Arizona, who became a labor leader and civil rights activist for workers rights across the nation. Many of these workers were Hispanic.  Along with Dolores Huerta, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962. (Now called the United Farm Workers.)

Like Martin Luther King, Chávez practiced non-violent protest.  “Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak.  Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win” Chavez said.  “In some cases non-violence requires more militancy than violence.”

It sounds quite familiar to my job last week: read iWork on March 24th. For Chávez, “the fight is never about grapes or lettuce…” it has always been “about people.”  Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, he would support farm workers across the nation by helping them seek higher wagers, safer working environments, and improved immigration law though his speeches, fasts, and marches.  One of his largest battles came in the 1970’s when the UFW organized strikes and boycotts for farm workers across the nation.  Strikes such as the “Salad Bowl” strike (the largest farm worker strike in U.S. history) helped gain higher wages for those farm workers who were employed by grape and lettuce growers.

What I found interesting about Chávez was that he undertook a number of spiritual fasts similar to many non-violent leaders in the past.  He treated his fasts as an act of “personal spiritual transformation”.  In 1968, he fasted for 25 days, living out the practice of nonviolence.  In 1970, Chávez began a fast of ‘thanksgiving and hope’ to counter the civil disobedience by fellow farm workers who acted out in violence.  In 1972, he fasted after his state’s passage of legislation that prohibited boycotts and strikes by farm workers during the harvest seasons.  He knew how to really, really fight.  Not with a gun…not with a knife…but with a shovel in one hand and a bull horn in the other.

I now know why many people all across the nation, and especially the border states, place him on the same level of honor as Martin Luther King and Gandhi.

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sake and for our own.”  – César Chávez

Man…giving blood was nothing.  I need to go back to the Vegetable Plant…

Read Deuteronomy 24:14-15

Deuteronomy 24:14-15: Posted on 

You shall not exploit a poor and needy hired servant, whether one of your own kindred or one of the resident aliens who live in your land, within your gates. On each day you shall pay the servant’s wages before the sun goes down, since the servant is poor and is counting on them. Otherwise the servant will cry to the LORD against you, and you will be held guilty. (NAB)

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